February Check-In

Doran | February 18th, 2014 - 1:22 am

I haven’t really had any real-time updates since putting out my 2014 Fitness Goals in mid-January.  Here we are a month later, and I have to say, I’m in a little bit of a weird place.  I’m still enjoying lifting hard and working out.  But progress has plateaued a little bit.  I’m the strongest I’ve ever been in my life  In the past decade or so, I’ve never really tried to break through this current level of strength with a sustained weight program.  So I find my motivation waning just a little bit.  This is rare for me; having the discipline to keep training consistently is one of my strengths, and the only way you can finish an Ironman in a decent time.   This goal of getting bigger and stronger does not seem to have the same motivation for me as triathlon.  I’m not sure if it’s because I like competing (triathlon) or what, because they both boil down to setting goals (beating times or putting up heavy weight) and working hard to achieve them.

Fitness / Workouts

Hitting some abs with suspension system.

Hitting some abs with suspension system. Gloves are more for the low temps in the garage, its cold out there!

I’m lifting three or four times a week right now, and generally doing upper body or lower body days with core almost every session and sometimes on it’s own between lifting days.  A typical leg day will be 5-8 sets of deadlifts (barbell and sometimes mixing in trap/hex bar) followed by bulgarian split squats or walking lunges.  Then usually some calf raises and maybe hamstring curls or leg extensions.  Often I finish it up by just carrying heavy weight (farmer’s carry).  Upper days are usually a combination of pushing (bench press, shoulder press) and pulling exercises (rows, etc) and usually include pull-ups.  Somewhat surprisingly, I’m only running about once and maybe twice a week.  I haven’t biked or swam since November, so my cardio fitness is at an all-time low. It’s also weird to only workout 3-5 times a week instead of basically every day and sometimes twice.  It is nice to have more time doing other things.

Diet

Still eating a lot of delicious meat.

Still eating a lot of delicious meat.

Since I’m in “weight gain” mode, I’m trying to eat more than usual, and make sure I get a lot of protein.  However, I’m really lax with quality, meaning I’m eating a lot of carbs and junk food.  This is really uncharacteristic and I’ haven’t had a sustained period (3-4 months now) of unrestricted food intake since undergrad.  For instance, last night, for some reason I invented a new way to get fat, by adding dark chocolate pieces to the biscuits we had with dinner to form my own chocolate croissant.  What?  Who am I?  For most of the past five years I wouldn’t have even had one of the biscuits.  And now I jam three down my face with dinner and another one covered in chocolate for dessert?  I’m borderline grossing myself out just thinking about it.  As you’d expect, this kind of behavior has lead to weight gain.  I’m now at 162, which I think is tied for the most I’ve ever weighed in my life.  Soon we’ll be breaking into new territory.

Garage Gym

This is the real exciting part of this update.  I’ve picked up a few new items since the initial install.  Will let the pictures do the talking, but I’ve added the following:

  • TRX Style Suspension System (Seen above, a Christmas Present from the Pennsylvania Reisers!)
  • SKLZ Core Pushup  (Another Christmas Present, thanks Georgia Reisers!)SKLZ Pushup
  • Mirrors ($40 on Craigslist)
  • Trap / Hex Bar (Love this for deadlifts, traps, and farmer’s carry)
  • Bar Holder (hand crafted by yours truly, a few progress photos included)
  • Cannonball Grips for pull-ups
  • Lifting Straps and Chalk

Of course, I still want bumper plates and maybe a new bar.  But I have the basics to get strong, and no excuses if I don’t.

You can see the mirrors and cannonball grips.

You can see the mirrors and cannonball grips.

Loving the trap bar for a number of exercises

Loving the trap bar for a number of exercises

Some gear I picked up from Rogue Fitness

Some gear I picked up from Rogue Fitness

Construction of the custom bar holder

Construction of the custom bar holder

The finished product, not bad for me, not exactly mr. fix-it.

The finished product, not bad for me, not exactly mr. fix-it.

 

2014 Fitness Goals

Doran | January 14th, 2014 - 2:40 pm

Back in November I wrote about the Off-Season Dilemma and how each year I after a few weeks off I start to get anxious and ready to begin planning and training for 2014 goals.  This year was particularly difficult because I have been thinking more and more that my life as a serious triathlete was coming to an end.  As the holidays came and went, this feeling was confirmed.  For a variety of reasons, I don’t think I will race even one triathlon in 2014.  Of course, never say never, but my life and fitness goals have shifted away from triathlon.  In my “Well.. this is 30 post I talked about exercising for general fitness and lasting health, and combine that with the fact that continuing to improve in triathlon takes a HUGE lifestyle commitment I’m just not willing to make… and I’m basically retired from the sport.  I’m not willing to spend time on the bike instead of with CJ, wake up at 5am every morning to train then go to work and maybe workout again afterwards.  I want to enjoy a cupcake when it’s someone’s birthday at work or not get stressed when CJ wants to go get fro-yo in the summer.  All of these sacrifices I did not mind making, and I enjoyed the results I’ve achieved in triathlon.  But after 7 years in the sport they are getting old, and I am too.  So of course I will still follow the pro triathlon circuit closely, and still consider myself a triathlete… but I just won’t be running, biking, and swimming every day.  On top of all these feelings, we have a busy summer coming up. For starters, we have several friends getting married this year, meaning we have five weddings between April and July, including Jim at Carnivore Diary and Conor.   I am so excited for each and every one of the couples, and I can’t wait to experience their big day.  I don’t want the guilt of not training that day or spending a night eating cake, drinking, and dancing with my best friends to ruin those weekends for me.  So I hope this shift away from the sport also helps me be a better friend and gives me more time to support those guys and girls leading up to their weddings.  It also frees up more time and energy to grow in other areas.  I’m still very ambitious in my career, and you have to put in the time to gain the experience necessary for advancement.  I can also enjoy outdoors and fitness more with CJ.  She really loves hiking and kayaking and unfortunately I haven’t done the best job at making this happen the past few years.  So this is the time!

She loves to kayak, this one

She loves to kayak, this one

With that said, I still crave challenges in all areas of my life.  So what WILL I be doing in 2014?  Well, I’ve sort of already started beefing up pretty seriously (for me).  I’m tipping the scales at close to 160lb for the first time since 2006, and gaining a lot of size and strength fairly quickly.  The garage gym is fully functional and I continue to add small pieces to help make it a complete setup.  My goal is to bulk up to at least 165 by spring, knowing full well that a little extra fat might come along with that muscle gain.  Then as spring and summer comes, I will focus on keeping the strength and size gains while leaning out a little to support…. Running a fast 5k.  I know gaining weight and running a fast 5k are somewhat contradictory goals, but I think I have so much room for improvement in each area that I can still run fast while lugging around some extra weight.  Hopefully a lot of that will be leg strength anyway.  Throughout 2014 I’m going to be doing a combination of running, traditional strength training, and some functional / cross-fit-esque (whatever you want to call the current fitness trends) work.   Overall my goal is to be fit for whatever life throws at me, whether that be lifting a car off a small child, jumping into a 5k race, looking good at the beach, or helping a buddy move something heavy.  Obviously this is all kind of an idea rather than hard and fast benchmarks, so I’ll try to set some specific goals.

Before setting measurable goals for 2014, I decided to max out at the gym this weekend.  I really surprised myself, since I haven’t really been training for maximum lifts yet, mostly doing sets of 8-12 to get back in the swing of strength training.  On Saturday January 12th, I weighed in at 158lbs and bench pressed 235lb (equals my all time max) and squatted 245lb.  On the squats, I did get 265lb up, but did not go down to parallel, so I didn’t count it.  I don’t recall if I’ve ever really maxed out on squats, there’s no record in my training log… but I do know I’ve always had really weak legs.  From my past few 5k’s, I know that I’m in roughly 19:00 shape (while basically being out of shape).  So in hopes of a noticeable “transformation” here is a “before” picture (which is really a 2-months in picture).

"Before" Picture - Front

“Before” Picture – Front

I know you ladies like the back view

I know you ladies like the back view

With these current benchmarks, I have the following goals (with target completion date of Aug 1):

  • Weigh a lean and mean 165lbs (sort of like Honeymoon Fit but bigger)
    • That’s another 7lbs of weight, but since I’m not exactly lean right now it is probably closer to 10lbs of muscle. 
    • This will be very difficult, especially since I’ve already gained 6-8lbs of muscle in the past few months.
  • Bench Press 150% of my body weight (250lb) and squat 200% of my body weight (330)
    • Maybe a combined goal of 580 is better, bc I am close on the bench but have a long way to go on the squat.
    • 265 and 315 might be more realistic given I am currently at 235 and 245… but we’ll see.  I expect to see big gains on squat
  • Sub 18:00 5k time, with 17:30 the goal
    • I’ve been running 19:00 without much training or speed work.  So hopefully with a little focus I get can down to 17:30… that’s 5:38 minutes per mile for those of you keeping track at home
  • Spent more time outdoors with CJ
  • Enjoy more time with friends than the past few summers, particularly at upcoming bachelor parties and weddings
You never know when you might have to do pushups with a child on your back.. But I will be ready

You never know when you might have to do pushups with a child on your back.. But I will be ready

 

Doran’s 2013 Season Wrap-Up & Reflections

Doran | January 5th, 2014 - 7:44 pm

2013 is over (wow, it flew by) and January is when everyone takes stock of things.  I like to do a review of finances, fitness, and generally just take the time to check in on where things stand.  Here of course, I’ll stick to triathlon.

One of the main drivers (in terms of time and stress) in my life is work, so it’s important to understand how that went before analyzing any fitness goals.  This year was definitely the most steady and consistent in this regard.  I had very little work travel and rarely worked crazy long hours.  I’d say I generally averaged 45-50 hours, which means I have absolutely no excuses for work holding me back in my training.  My hours are really flexible, we have a small gym at my office, and I have a short commute.  All of these things are extremely helpful in planning training around your work commitments, and I definitely had the best work situation (in terms of training) in years.  One highlight of 2013 was purchasing our first home in March, and the months of painting (done mostly by CJ, I must admit), furniture shopping, and settling in that follow.  It was definitely a successful year in that regard.  We love our new house, neighborhood, and with the garage gym complete, we are fully furnished and done with any big purchases.   But again, this change didn’t really affect my training and if anything, had a net positive effect (having a garage for bikes, room for trainer, garage gym, short commute, etc, etc).   So let’s get to the data, first in training…

Below is a graph of training volume by sport over the last seven years (2007 to 2013 from left to right).  In 2013 I swam 147,000 meters (91 miles), biked 2,206 miles and ran 397 miles.  If you add it up, I swam, biked, and ran a distance equivalent of New York City to Los Angeles this year.  While not the highest volume year I’ve had, it’s kind of cool when you think of it that way.  My swimming and biking volume totals were the highest since my Ironman years in 2008-2009, and biking in particular was pretty high.  I also can say that my biking intensity was much, much higher than in 2008/2009, and overall I was probably in the best shape of my life, biking wise.  However, it came at a cost… and that was run volume.  Again, I know I did a fair amount of intensity.  My weekday morning brick session (usually on Wednesday) usually included race pace (or harder) bike interval work, after which I would run a sub-20 minute 5k.  That’s some really intense training.  But again, the biking and run intensity did mean less volume, and my run miles were the lowest since I’ve been serious in triathlon.

2007-2013 Training Volume

Also, I really shut down my training after mid-September, so using full year volume is a bit deceptive when comparing to the years of Ironman Florida when that race was in early November, so training continued through the fall.  The chart below tracks cumulative training volume by month shows this well.  It’s too busy with all the years in it so I selected 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2013. The blue lines are swimming volume, green is running volume, and red is biking volume.  2013 is highlighted with the big fat squares at each data point.  As you can see, my 2013 biking volume was put in very early on in the year, so it had a bigger effect on my performance (higher training load) than in 2008/2009 in which I achieved higher volume, but it took 11 months to get there.  In fact, you can see that before August, my 2013 biking was higher than ever.  This confirms my thought that in July/August this year I was very strong on the bike.  The chart also confirms run mileage being very low and swimming somewhere below an Ironman year but generally about average.

Training Volume by Month

So what did all this training data mean in terms of results?  Well, they were generally the best of my career in terms of consistently placing fairly well at races. But I definitely failed to achieve my goal of 2:10 Olympic Triathlon, despite having some pretty good races.  Overall, I’d say I put in a ton of work and commitment this year and really only achieved marginal gains.  I think I am about as close to my potential (given constraints of job/life/etc) as I will ever be.  With my athletic priorities likely shifting in 2014, I have likely achieved all I will ever achieve in the sport of triathlon in terms of high performance.  So let’s take a look…

–          Smithfield Sprint Triathlon (April) – 24th of 450ish Overall – I was more prepared this year than last year, but there was some stiff competition at this race.

–          Richmond Sprint Triathlon (April) – 10th of 500ish Overall – Felt really good at this race.  The bike work was paying off, and my GPS had my 5k at 19:01 on a hilly, technical course that definitely slowed me down.

–          Running Races – 10k (39:28) in May and 8k (32:01) in June – 10k was on a cold windy morning, but is my fastest ever.

–          Rev3 Williamsburg (June) – 2:13 & 15th of 477 Overall – My fastest Olympic length race ever, even with a very long run up to T1 and hilly run course.  According to USA Triathlon’s ranking system, this was probably the best triathlon of my life, when compared to my peers.

–          Tidewater Triathlon (July) – 7th of 368 Overall – A top 10 in a good sized race, at which I only placed 30th the year before.  Again, I was on really good form in July.

–          Cleveland Triathlon (August) – 2:08 & 10th of 93 Overall – I wish I could have this one back.  Pushed way too hard on swim and bike and suffered on the run.  It also shook my confidence and really mentally my season was done at this point.

–          Patriot Sprint (September) – 2:19 & 32nd of 600ish Overall – Really enjoyed the race, though I could tell my bike fitness just wasn’t where it was in July and August.

–          Sandman Triathlon (September) – 6th of 431 – One of my favorite races.  Even in much calmer wind conditions this year (meaning easier swim and hopefully faster bike) I had a similar bike split and just missed a sub-19 5k, going 19:04.

–          Riverfront 5k & Franklin Templeton 5k (Nov & Dec) – 19:02 & 19:18 – Two 5k’s without much serious training just for fun.  Despite being much heavier than triathlon season and on very little running (10 miles TOTAL in all of October and only 36 in November), I really enjoy revving it up for a 5k.  I did manage to go about 30 seconds faster than last year at the Franklin Templeton 5k and we all know next year I will be “in it to win it” at the Riverfront 5k after coasting into 2nd place this year.

Can you find Waldo at the Franklin Templeton 5k in Naples, FL?

Can you find Waldo at the Franklin Templeton 5k in Naples, FL?

So what can I say about 2013?  This year I made the biggest commitment to the sport of triathlon in terms of time, money, and effort since Ironman in 2009. I did a lot of racing, seven triathlons and four running races.  What did I get for my efforts?  I reduced my Olympic Triathlon PR by four minutes from 2:17 (on a course with a slightly short bike distance) to 2:13 (on a course with a quarter mile run up to transition and hilly run).  I also had 4 top 10 finishes, all in races of significant size (with the exception of Cleveland Triathlon).  I made some new triathlon friends in both Virginia Beach and Suffolk, and now have guys I can ride with on pretty much any Saturday morning.  Overall, I’d say I’m a little disappointed, but I had placed unreasonable expectations on the Cleveland Triathlon and that “failure” negatively affected the second half of my race season.  However, I am really lucky to have my health (and fitness), a supportive wife, and the ability to train as much or as little as I’d like.  Onwards and upwards in 2014.

Bonus: Did you know that over a half million people competed in USAT sanctioned triathlons in 2013?  If you’re interested in the numbers behind triathlon in the US in 2013, check out this article with some fun facts from USA Triathlon.

The Garage Gym

Doran | December 4th, 2013 - 1:57 pm
Packed it all up in the Rav4 - love this vehicle

Packed it all up in the Rav4 – love this vehicle

While I’m still dealing with the Off-Season Dilemma and trying to sort out my athletic goals and objectives for 2014, I have been working on a little side project.  We’ve been in our new house for about 8 months now and it’s definitely home.  We have completed all the major furniture purchases and little touches to make it ours.   But we were missing one little thing… a garage to match.  Sure I had my bikes hung up and some stuff stored on shelves, but there was potential for so much more.  A garage gym!  So the weekend before Thanksgiving I made it up to my parents place to grab a squat rack, bench, and weights that used to be in my dining room (yes, dining room) in college.  All this equipment was just sitting in my parent’s basement and I can now finally give it a home.

So I began to set up a little home gym, with the full support of CJ (THANK YOU), and some very excited guys in the neighborhood who will be enjoying their free membership.  The plan is that we will add some additional items over time, sandbag, ropes, mirrors, sled, etc., in order to be a really complete facility for strength training.  The gym was an easy sell for CJ, because it means I can workout, but also be home more (and because no matter what, she is always supportive of my crazy ideas).  It saves time the time, gas, hassle, and expense of going to the gym.  So I promptly quit my YMCA membership (no swimming for me in the near future, unless I venture into the pond behind the house) and now workout exclusively in the garage.

Stall MatBefore I could call it a home gym, I did have to make several additions/modification to the garage.  First, I significantly upgraded the existing single garage light bulb with a huge compact fluorescent light (Utilitech 65-watt Outdoor CFL – 3900 lumens, equivalent to a 300w conventional bulb).   Then, I purchased an LED tube light, wired it to an old cord/switch/plug I had laying around, and mounted it above the weight rack.  So that takes care of the lighting, but what about the floor?  Well after an extensive amount of thought and research on meat-head websites, I gathered that rubber horse stall mats were the best choice for home-gym flooring.  They are intended for horse stalls and are basically 6’x4’ mats made of 3/8” thick rubber, and weighing about 100 lbs EACH.  I patiently waited for Black Friday before making the trip to Tractor Supply Store and what do you know, they were on sale!  I picked up 4 mats for under $140 total and boom, I have perfect flooring.  I arrange the layout such that I have room for 2-3 people to be working out at once, and a cutout for where weights can sit on the floor and where the trash can usually sits.  I had to cut one mat in half with a utility knife, which was a bit of a process but overall pretty straight forward.  The only other items purchased to this point was a rolling weight rack and dipping belt (to add weights for dips and pullups) from Dick’s Sporting Goods.  So thus far I am about $350 in and have a fully functioning weight room in my garage.  Of course, I was lucky to have picked up that weight rack and weights (used) about 10 years ago for an incredible deal.

Lighting

With all this, I’m now definitely leaning towards NOT being serious about triathlon this year and maybe just staying all around healthy and fit.  However, a small part of me is still tugging me towards triathlon, saying this year is my last chance to be really good… but that voice sounds awfully familiar to the one I heard last year.  So maybe it’s time to enjoy the gym and take a season off… or maybe not.

Without further ado, below are a few pics of the finished product.  My dream garage… weights on one side bikes on the other.  And oh yeah, we can still fit a car in there.  CJ’s of course.  Going out to a freezing cold car all winter is a small price to pay for a home gym!

Garage Gym Before After

Adding the weights also forced us to really organize our garage storage/bikes

2013-11-30 12.56.13

The “Strength” side of the garage

The "Endurance/Biking" side of the garage

The “Endurance/Biking” side of the garage

For anyone wondering what to get me for Christmas… my list is below

The Off-Season Dilemma

Doran | November 30th, 2013 - 11:25 pm

Every off-season starts the same way for me.  I’m writing about it because I think it’s pretty common and many of you feel the same way.  The first few weeks are characterized by denial.  Yes, the season is over and yes I know I should be resting and take some time off of training. But I have so much fitness from the season and pent-up energy that I can’t help but go on a few more hard rides or runs to just enjoy going fast.  The next few weeks I finally accept it’s time for a break, but end up being grumpy the whole time, because I don’t get those exercise induced endorphins that even out my mood.  Side note: I really, REALLY don’t do well without daily exercise.  Anyway, for the next month I’m usually content to lift weights and get into some unstructured riding and running.  This year has been no different.  After a week or two with very few workouts, November has been a mix of some good long Saturday group rides, a few runs (including the Riverfront 5k), and lifting at least twice a week.  In fact, I’m up to 158 lbs; up about 8-10 pounds from triathlon season (probably half muscle, half fat).  Just recently stepping on a scale for the first time in a month, I couldn’t believe I’d gained that much weight so quickly.   This is about as big as I was when bulking up for the wedding/honeymoon a few years ago.  The Pull Up Challenge really has had a huge impact on my upper body size and strength. Anyway, for the past few weeks I’ve been debating the following three options.  I’ve given myself to December 1 to decide and begin training in earnest.  Now that December is upon us, I’m targeting a December 15th decision.  What’s an endurance athlete to do????

 

New Goal?  Not sure if this is necessarily for me.

New Goal? Not sure if this is necessarily for me.

Lift / Gain Size & Strength

Of course, if I followed my own advice in my Turning 30 post, I would choose this option.  It’s probably time to tone down my triathlon obsession and stay generally fit.  Ideally I’d add some muscle and all around athleticism with lifting and cross-fit type training, while still enjoying swimming, biking, and running more casually.  This would allow more time for work and family commitments, and who knows, maybe I could actually expand my horizons and find some culture with all this extra energy (…. nahhhh).

 

 

Run a Marathon

Somewhat surprisingly, I have never run an open marathon.  I’ve plodded to a few four hour and some change marathons to complete Ironman.  But that was NOT running a marathon.  Heck, that wasn’t even running.  It was surviving.  So the idea of training up specifically for a marathon is pretty appealing.  It’s a new challenge, and something I think I could be decent at.  If I took it seriously, I could probably go somewhere around 3:10 or 3:20 by this spring.  I like the idea of a new challenge, and a new personal  best, while still staying in the area of endurance sports; playing into my strengths and interests.  Another advantage is the training is not as all-consuming as triathlon.  However, there are a few major drawbacks, the biggest of which is it will probably make me even skinnier – it would be counterproductive in terms of lifting and getting more athletic.  Running is also hard on the joints, and doing long runs all winter isn’t exactly my idea of a good time (though I do have all the gear for it, so I can’t complain).

Run a marathon?  Maybe a good option.

Run a marathon? Maybe a good option.

Prepare for 2014 Triathlon Season

After eight years in the sport, I am under no false illusions; making gains in triathlon is very difficult.  I am as close to maximizing my physiology as I can probably get while still having a job and wife.  However, I did see some improvement this past year, and I still love to run, bike, and swim.  But do I really want to be killing myself every morning at 5am in the pool or on the bike, to basically get the same results of the past year or two?

Prepping for a 2014 marathon or triathlon season will involve some cold weather training...

Prepping for a 2014 marathon or triathlon season will involve some cold weather training…

Those are my thoughts, so what do you guys think?  Get big, run lots, or stay the triathlon course?

The Danger of Supplements

Doran | November 17th, 2013 - 11:47 pm

As athletes, we are always looking for ways to get bigger, faster, stronger, leaner, or whatever it is for our sport.  Many of us utilize supplements that we believe can assist us in these goals.  Over the years, I have used many different supplements, such as creatine and protein powder to gain muscle, or even a weight loss supplement on a occasion. The crazy thing is, the supplement industry is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so there are a lot of unsafe products out there.  The picture below is from my pantry as it is right now.  Lots of protein, a pre-workout supplement (NO Explode), some creatine I haven’t taken in about a year, and Cytocarb (tasteless calorie/carbohydrate additive for long endurance workouts), and of course, pumpkin puree, tons of pumpkin, I love that stuff.

The supplement section of our pantry

The supplement section of our pantry

Just recently, I’ve become aware of several products that I’ve taken, which have been recalled or at least reported to contain harmful substances.  Of course there are TONS of examples to choose from, but I’ll detail these few that hit really close to home with me.   I’m not trying to write this condescendingly and tell everyone not to take supplements because they are dangerous.  I’m just trying to share my experiences, which I’m sure are very similar to tons of people out there.

Muscle Milk (and other protein powders)

This is one of the most popular protein powders on the market, and rated 8.4 on Bodybuilding.com, a popular site for forums, purchasing supplements, and more.  Well, Consumer Reports released a study that many protein powders contained high levels of heavy metals (lead, arsenic, etc), and Muscle Milk was one of the worst offenders.  It’s Cadmium and Lead levels were above the max limit proposed by the U.S. Pharmacopea (USP), and Arsenic was very close to the limit.  These heavy metals have numerous negative health effects, including limiting mental and physical growth, causing cancer, and all of these effects are really serious in small children and/or pregnant women.   If you look closely, its in my pantry… so what should I do, throw it out?

OxyElite Pro

This one actually triggered me writing this article.  OxyElite Pro is described as a “super thermogenic… the ultimate fat incinerating formula to date by USPLabs.”  USPLabs is (was?) a really well known and respected supplement maker.  A few times over the years I’ve used this for a short time to get a quick cut look. It definitely works.  After maybe two or three weeks I would go from my usual “fit but not cut” to having defined abs and even veins down in my lower abdomen… it’s pretty sweet.  I chose this initially due to its high customer satisfaction rating and reviews on various websites.  It worked as advertised; the only side effect I noticed was being a little jittery, like drinking too much coffee. Well, recently the FDA informed USPLabs that their products have been linked to liver illnesses, and the supplement maker immediately recalled the product.  In a review of 46 medical records submitted to FDA, one death has occurred, and several patients require a liver transplant.  This all occurred in early November and the product has been removed from most websites (as of Nov 17), while some, such as www.SupplementWarehouse.com advertise it as “Discontinued Formula – Limited Supply!”  Are you kidding me?  This product has likely contributed to deaths and serious illness, and this website is still marketing it…. And the sad thing is people are probably rushing to buy it because apparently appearance is more important than health.

OxyElitePro SuppWarehouse

 

Craze

Craze

 

Craze is another story of supplements gone wrong.  It was a hugely popular pre-workout supplement, until it was pulled from the shelves.  Why?  Because the US Anti-Doping Agency and another lab in Sweden found it had amphetamine-like compounds.  Basically like taking meth.  Awesome.   This product was developed by Mark Cahill, a convicted felon with a history of producing dangerous supplements.

 

Jack3d

Jack3d

Jack3d is another pre-workout supplement, and I’ve used it.  Wow, I think this one had to have meth in it as well.  Was it awesome before a workout? YES.  I would crush out a strength session at the gym, basically have to pull myself away from the weights because I was so focused and intense.  Then I’d go home and do two or three hours of work or housecleaning before bed.  The whole time I’d have lazer-like focus and feel great.  I quit taking it after a few months after I got a little worried that my face burned when I took it and over time my… uh… man parts… started to ache on a regular basis.  These side effects were corroborated by my roommates at the time.  I stopped taking it, and my ache went away.  Two different New York Times articles (here and here) cover the danger of Jack3d and concerns that FDA has with an ingredient known as dimethylamine or DMMA, which narrows the blood vessels and can lead to high blood pressure.  Maybe that’s why my face burned, I don’t know.

Bottom Line

There are a few points I wanted to make with this post:

  • Sometimes our drive to be healthy or fit actually leads us to do unhealthy things (knowingly or unknowingly).  It’s probably best to keep the big picture in mind.  It your overall health worth sacrificing to look better or get in a few extra reps at the gym?
  • Do your research on what you’re taking; don’t just listen to the biggest guy at the gym
  • My pre-workout supplement is now a cup of coffee; this is probably the safest bet
  • The supplement market is NOT regulated by FDA and kind of a free for all.  Maybe the best questions are, “Do I really need a supplement at all?” or “What is driving me to take this supplement?”  If you don’t need it or its vanity or over-competitiveness, don’t take it.

Fall Fitness Check In

Doran | November 11th, 2013 - 10:18 pm

It’s been a little while since I’ve checked in with anything remotely related to endurance sports (I wouldn’t count the activities in Fall Fun as a sport), so I thought I’d share a little with what I’ve been up to.  I’m planning on longer post on my usual off-season conundrum, but for now I’ll just give you the update.

After my last two triathlons of the season in early September, I sort of eased into the off-season.  I didn’t care about taking a zero day here or there, and just exercised for fun.  I was really fit on the bike, so in the last few weeks of September and early October, enjoyed sniping some KOM’s on Strava.  That was fun for awhile, I definitely let the area’s cyclists know who I was.  But holding onto that fitness is a lost cause, and by mid-October, I had basically gone a month very little running and no swimming whatsoever.  I learned pretty quickly that not working out regularly makes me a grumpy, unhappy person.  I had a few busy weeks in early October with only one or two workouts and it was not a fun time.  I needed a new physical challenge, but something that still kept in mind it was the “off-season” and technically my body and mind needed to rest from all the early mornings and hard sessions of the past 6-8 months.  Enter The Chin-Up Project.

T-Nation... not a website usually frequented by triathletes

T-Nation… not a website usually frequented by triathletes

What in the world is a 150 lb endurance athlete like me doing on T-Nation, a popular website for massive body builders and power lifters?  Good question.  Since living with Jim, better known as “The Carnivore” for his work on CarnivoreDiary.com, every once in awhile I’ll casually peruse T-Nation.  If you visit his blog, you’ll get the idea that the Carnivore is like a walking experiment in fitness, diet, and lifting.  Anyway, the Carnivore was just starting a little pull up challenge of his own, so I decided to do one too. I love lifting in the off-season, so this was something new to shift focus from endurance sports, while building muscle and gaining new strengths.  The program roughly breaks down into two phases.

Carnivore Diary.  If you don't know, now you know.

Carnivore Diary. If you don’t know, now you know.

I just finished Phase 1, which is basically four weeks of bodyweight pull ups and chin ups, with several sets spread throughout the day.  This phase is all about volume.  Saturday is a “Challenge Day” when you see how many you can do in 5:00 minutes and Sunday is a rest day. My total reps over the first four weeks?

  • Week 1 – 140 total and 40 in 5:00
  • Week 2 – 195 total and 45 in 5:00
  • Week 3 – 240 total and 50 in 5:00
  • Week 4 – 292 total and 52 in 5:00
I set up a little chin-up bar upstairs in the house. Usually hit a few in the morning.

I set up a little chin-up bar upstairs in the house. Usually hit a few in the morning.

In the past month I’ve gained a noticeable amount of upper body size and strength.  I’ve been surprised that the pull ups/chin ups (along with a little lifting) have really affected not just my back and biceps but also chest and abs.  Don’t worry, I wont be entering any body building competitions anytime soon.  Still skinny and soft for the most part.  As you can see in the article, my next four weeks are geared toward strength, and will involve much fewer chin-ups but they will all be weighted at my six-rep max.  I expect this will have an even more noticeable impact on my upper body size and strength.

In addition to the Chin-Up Project, I’ve also been casually exercising for fun. Nothing serious. A few short runs and 2 lifts per week.  All my Strava KOM’s in late September had an unintended benefit.  After I stole all their KOM’s, a really fast group of local cyclists reached out to me to join their group ride.  So for the past two weekend’s they’ve been paying me back by putting me on the pain cave.  Each Saturday we went about 55 miles at 21-22mph average speed.  I usually stay towards the back of the group and just hang on for dear life.  These guys are serious cyclist and hopefully I can begin to ride at their level after a few of these Saturday sessions.

Riding some beautiful back-country roads

Riding some beautiful back-country roads

We stopped to pay our respects on Veteren's Day Weekend ride.

We stopped to pay our respects on Veteran’s Day Weekend ride.

So for now, I am trying to embrace the lack of structure and flexibility that the off-season provides, but soon I’ll be looking for my next challenge.  Any ideas?

Fall Fun 2013

Doran | November 4th, 2013 - 1:21 pm

Fall is a really interesting and difficult time for us endurance athletes.  We’re usually finishing our season in September or early October and are  really enjoying all the fitness that comes along with 6 months of solid training.   Naturally, we take a lot of pride in our fitness and how good we feel while running, biking, swimming, or whatever it is.  But after the last race of the season (which was Sandman Triathlon for me), it’s time to ease into the off-season.  It can be really difficult to let go of all this hard earned endurance conditioning.  For me personally, I went into the 2013 season thinking this was my last chance to really focus on triathlon and achieve all I could in the sport.  At 30 years old, I’m not getting any younger. This year my job has been fairly steady with very little travel, and CJ had agreed that I should really focus on triathlon this summer.  Well, as the season wound to a close, I had mixed results during the season and now I was due to shift my priorities to other things.  I definitely struggled a bit in late September, letting go of fitness is hard to do.  I considered entering another triathlon, or doing some 5k’s in hopes of breaking 18:00, but I decided against it and finally embraced all of the fun activities fall brings.  For me, this meant time with CJ and friends, a trip to Charlottesville, a football game in Blacksburg, and some other fun events.  While this blog often focuses on triathlon, I think it’s important to take some down time and cultivate other interests and relationships.  So with that introduction, below is my fall, in photo form.

We kicked off the fall with a visit to the Chesapeake Wine Festival…

Chesapeake Wine Festival.  A rainy day but we enjoyed it... kinda

Chesapeake Wine Festival. A rainy day but we enjoyed it… kinda

After that little warmup, it was off for a weekend in the winemaker countryside outside of Charlottesville.  We stayed at a great little bed and breakfast at Glass House Winery.   Our favorite places included Grace Estates and Stone Mountain.  We also enjoyed a scenic hike out in Sugar Hollow, which was definitely about as far from civilization as CJ and I get.

Our 5 mile hike included quite a few crossings of this little creek.

Our 5 mile hike included quite a few crossings of this little creek. CJ is quite the waterbug.

One of our favorite views from the hike.

One of our favorite views from the hike.

Grace Estates

Grace Estates

Looking over the valley at Grace Estates Winery.  Wine was good too.

Selfie looking over the valley at Grace Estates Winery. Wine was good too.

Not quite Napa, but still some great scenery.  We love the mountains.

Not quite Napa, but still some great scenery. We love the mountains.

Speaking of mountains, Stone Mountain Winery was at top of 2 mile dirt road straight uphill.

Speaking of mountains, Stone Mountain Winery was at top of 2 mile dirt road straight uphill.

But the view was worth it!  Picture doesn't do it justice.

But the view was worth it! Picture doesn’t do it justice.

The very next weekend it was off to Blacksburg to see the Hokies play Duke and just enjoy being on campus.  Naturally, the game was painful, but overall the visit was fantastic.  I love that place.

We had lunch at Cabo Fish Taco, our favorite restaurant and site of our first ever date

We had lunch at Cabo Fish Taco, our favorite restaurant and site of our first ever date

If you look closely Bear is hanging out by front door.

If you look closely Bear is hanging out by front door.

A lot of great memories in this stadium.  And some painful ones.

A lot of great memories in this stadium. And some painful ones.

We had a great tailgate spot, in view of stadium

We had a great tailgate spot, in view of stadium

CJ and BonBon make tailgating look really, really good.

CJ and BonBon make tailgating look really, really good.

Hadder and I having a drink and enjoying the day.

Hadder and I having a drink and enjoying the day.

Great Stadium.  Mediocre Football.

Great Stadium. Mediocre Football.

Bear like it so much she had to get a VT Jersey.

Bear like it so much she had to get a VT Jersey.

The Fall Fun isn’t over yet…  On Halloween we had little party at our house for all the neighborhood kids and families.  And we followed that up with the Edmarc charity gala on Saturday.  A great cause and something we plan to get more involved in going forward.

The whole neighborhood came to our place after trick or treating.

The whole neighborhood came to our place after trick or treating.

The Bosso's went as "Raining Cats and Dogs"

The Bosso’s went as “Raining Cats and Dogs”

Getting ready to head to the Edmarc event.

Getting ready to head to the Edmarc event.

At the charity event, we didnt win any silent auction stuff but had a great time

At the charity event, we didn’t win any silent auction stuff but had a great time

So that’s the update for now, I hope everyone else out there is doing well and taking some time off after a long season.  Once I figure out what’s going on with this off-season and plans for next year I’ll drop in with another post.

Riding & Running Around Seattle

Doran | October 16th, 2013 - 5:06 pm

It’s been a busy few weeks, and while the triathlon season has eased to a close, work and travel have picked up and kept things really busy.  However, I did have the opportunity to do some incredible riding and running while on a recent trip to Seattle, so I thought I’d share some photos.

Saturday I went for a jog on Elliot Bay Trail, which is just a few blocks from downtown and offers incredible views of the Puget Sounds, Olympic Mountains, and Seattle Skyline.  You can catch it from just behind the famous Pike Place Market and enjoy 5 miles of beautiful northwest scenery.

Seattle's famous skyline

Seattle’s famous skyline

Mountains and Puget Sound

A nice park with views of the mountains and Puget Sound

I was loving this view... even with the tanker

I was loving this view… even with the tanker

View of Seattle's shipyards/dock's with Mount Rainier in the background

View of Seattle’s shipyards/dock’s with Mount Rainier in the background

 

 

On Sunday, I took the ferry over to Bainbridge Island with a plan to rent a bike at Classic Cycle (a short walk from the ferry landing) and enjoy some riding on quiet hilly roads.  I gotta say, the terrains and the views did not disappoint.  The ferry ride itself was spectacular, with incredible views of Mount Rainier, Seattle, and the surrounding area.  I had a crisp cool October morning and the sun came out and warmed things up, well into the high 60’s.  A perfect day for biking.  I had planned on following the course of the annual Chilly Hilly ride that kicks of the season every February.  It’s a 33 mile loop of Bainbridge Island with 2,600 feet of elevation, I was really excited to ride up some hills. I had printed off the cue sheet and map, but about 2/3 into the ride got lost on the island.  Which was awesome because I saw more stuff, but also painful, as I accidentally ended up going up Toe Jam Hill towards the end of my ride (12.5% grade for the ‘steep part’ and 7.5% for about a mile.  Ouch. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

From the Ferry Terminal in Seattle

From the Ferry Terminal in Seattle

View of the City from the Ferry

View of the City from the Ferry

Reminded me of trip to Alcatraz

Reminded me of trip to Alcatraz

Right next to ferry terminal is "Bike Barn" were you can lockup your bike for the day or rent bikes

Right next to ferry terminal is “Bike Barn” were you can lockup your bike for the day or rent bikes

First stop, Classic Cycles.

First stop, Classic Cycles.

My trusty steed, a poor performing Raleigh road bike

My trusty steed, a poor performing Raleigh road bike, that’s Seattle in the background

Just a random shot of the roads, they were rough but nice enough & few cars

A random shot of the roads, they were paved w rough aggregate but nice enough & very few cars

Just a random stretch of road, beautiful views of Puget Sound

Just another random stretch of road, beautiful views of Puget Sound

The view from that road above.  Mount Rainier.

The view from that road above. Mount Rainier.

I got a little creative with the Garmin 910XT.  Very versatile GPS, love it.

I got a little creative with the Garmin 910XT. Very versatile GPS, love it.

Came across this little guy, so I quickly stopped and took a photo

Came across this little guy, so I quickly stopped and took a photo

After a hilly 36 miles, I was badly in need of some fuel.

After a hilly 36 miles, I was badly in need of some fuel.

 

 

Overall I have to say that I left with an incredibly positive perception of Seattle.  In addition to being really friendly, the people there appear to be very fit/active/outdoorsy, and really environmentally conscious.  I’d like to think I fit into this category as well, but won’t be too presumptuous.  I definitely strive to be friendly, fit, and care about the environment.  The city seems really walk-able and tons of people commute by bike, a huge plus.  The one negative is that there seem to be a lot of homeless and/or mentally unstable folks on the streets.  I hear this is because Seattle has social programs to take care of them.  It’s an unusual dynamic for a city with like 4% unemployment and a huge employers such as Amazon, Microsoft, Brooks, etc.  And of course, I got really lucky with weather, having two spectacular days on Saturday and Sunday.  However while I was working Monday and Tuesday it was pretty rainy and yucky out.  Anyway, hope you enjoyed the little mini-tour!

Well.. this is 30, huh?

Doran | August 22nd, 2013 - 8:19 pm

Well, I’m thirty years old today.  Which I guess is a time when you are supposed to have a mini-freak out about getting old (or maybe that’s just for chicks, I don’t know, I’m new at this).  I definitely don’t feel old, and I’m definitely not freaking out, so I guess I’ll spend a few minutes to reflect on where I am in life at the moment.  So here goes, in order of priority…

Family Life & Close Friends

CJ and I have never been happier.  We are enjoying our new house and friends in Suffolk.  Our current situation is better than I ever could have imagined at age 30.  A few years ago, I would not have expected to own a home or feel so settled.  If life stays this good, wow, am I a lucky guy.  I know we’ll have our challenges in life, but I feel that we’ve built a really strong foundation over the years, and we face adversity well together.  My relationships with my parents and brother are always very close and very good, so nothing new there.  What is new is that we’ve already made it to Ohio three times this year, and will likely see my parents again soon.  Not bad for living 9 hours away.  CJ and I have made some really great new friends in the neighborhood and I’ve maintained my inner circle from both high school and college.  Football season is just around the corner, and 2014 is shaping up to be a big year for weddings, so I’m looking forward to seeing everyone in Blacksburg, Scottsdale, Virginia Beach, etc.  I can tend to get a bit wrapped up in staying home, training, and relaxing, and I need to make an effort to spend more time with my close friends.  So look out, I may be calling you soon (don’t worry, I still don’t want to party, just hang out).

Professional Life

At work, things are going well.  I feel like I’m learning and growing every day.  I get a lot of personal satisfaction out of my job, and I’m proud of what I do.  Lately there has not been much travel or really long hours, so that helps the work-life balance, big time.  This fall looks like some travel, but travel usually means new experiences, connecting with different people, and thus expanding ones knowledge and relationships.  For this reason I try to look at the negative of leaving home as a positive professionally.  In general, I’m at home much more than ever before, so I can’t complain at all.

A little birthday prank at the office today

A little birthday prank at the office today

Health & Fitness

This blog is generally about your every day working athlete’s daily life and struggles, told through my experiences.  So as usual, I tend to keep the personal and professional stuff fairly brief, and concentrate on the fitness aspect of things. Over the years my fitness goals have changed from “gaining weight and building muscle” in college, to ironman, to short course triathlon, and my body has morphed significantly as a result.  At 22 years old, I weighed 165, had almost no neck, and was really focused on gaining weight and muscle.  I never developed size or strength as quickly as others, but really enjoyed going to the gym.   Plus, I thought all girls wanted big muscles, so… yeah.  Then somehow I got the triathlon bug and several years later was focused on long-distance triathlon.  At age 25 I weighed 138 lbs and broke 12 hours in an Ironman.   I was very skinny, weak, and slow, but I could swim, bike,run for a very long time.   Right now, at age 30, I dare say I am in life-best condition.  Sure, I can’t bench press as much as my 22 year old self, and can’t do an Ironman as fast as my 25 year old self.  However, I am a fairly decent mix of both, and pretty darn fast (for me) over a Sprint and Olympic Distance Triathlon.

Going forward, I’m going to strive for even better balance, in the form of less focus on triathlon and more just general health and fitness.  I wouldn’t mind gaining a bit more muscle, even if it means losing some speed in triathlons.  Past age 30 it will get harder and harder to gain muscle, so I’d like to build the body that will serve me best over the long haul of life, before it’s too late.

Areas of Improvement

While I think things are generally going really well in those external areas, there’s a few areas I have probably been neglecting that I’d really like to improve, or at the very least keep in mind more regularly.  During this time of reflection, I’ve been thinking about the kind of person I want to be.  I want to be kind, humble, and generous.  I want my friends to know they can count on me, and that I care about them.  I want my colleagues to consider me honest, open, and committed.  I want to treat everyone with respect.  And right now I’m not sure that I am any of those things, and I’m really not sure how a random person would describe me.  In terms of my behavior and personal interactions, an occasional reminder should be enough, because hopefully these qualities don’t require a full on personality change.  (Note: It’s now about 3:30pm on my birthday, and so many people have reached out to say Happy Birthday, that it really is incredible what a large effect a simple gesture can have on somebody’s day.  So thanks to all of you that wrote on my wall or texted or tweeted or whatever.  I really appreciate each of you and now it’s on me to catch your birthday or special event or charity or time of need.  I am really lucky to have incredible friends and family, who challenge me to be better by setting such a high bar.)

The other main thing lacking in my life at the moment is service to others.  Now that I’ve fairly well established myself, I have more opportunity than ever to positively affect the lives of others.  In college, my fraternity provided a fantastic outlet for community service, and we did tons of it.   The past few years, I have only very sporadically participated in any service events.  My goal for this year will be to either join a group, find a cause, or influence my company to perform more regular community service.

Conclusion

I guess the general theme is that while I may be getting older, I’m also getting (somewhat) wiser (relatively speaking).  So while I’m probably not the best husband ever, or brightest professional, or fastest athlete, I’m as good or better now than I’ve ever been in all of those areas (I think…).  I view myself and my life as a constant work in progress, and thus far I’m really enjoying the journey.  So I hope I’ve used this milestone to focus on what’s important and also where I can improve.  Now, it’s time to go out and enjoy the next 30 years.  See you out there.

Remembering the good ol' days... high school graduation

Remembering the good ol’ days… high school graduation with Logue and Donnie